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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mercury in Capricorn

After analyzing my _Sun, Moon, and Rising signs_ as represented by the Tarot, I decided to explore the rest of my birth chart using Tarot card associations. This blog entry looks at the planet Mercury and its placement in Capricorn in my birth chart.

Quick Astrology Lesson

Mercury
In astrology the planet Mercury represents the mind and communication. As such it also relates to reading, writing, talking, listening, thinking, watching – everything in which the brain is involved. The planet was named after Mercury, messenger of the gods in Roman mythology. Clever and quick (thanks to his winged feet), Mercury invented music, mathematics, and astronomy. However, he was also the god of thieves – a cunning trickster. The planet Mercury rules two zodiac signs: Gemini (an Air sign) and Virgo (an Earth sign). I like Brian Clark’s description of how this works: “Gemini represents the quicksilver ability to gather and adapt information and ideas, while Virgo digests and analyses information into a coherent formula.” (Celestial Tarot, U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

Capricorn
The zodiac sign Capricorn is ruled by the planet Saturn, which represents self-discipline, responsibility, lessons, duties, and limitations. With that planetary ruler, it’s not surprising to learn that Capricorn is a practical, responsible, self-controlled, high-achieving sign. Linked with the element Earth, Capricorn appreciates structure and organization. Pessimism and melancholy can make an appearance in this sign as well.

So when we put Mercury in Capricorn, we usually have an organized mind along with the tendency to be cautious, methodical, and a hard worker. Mercury-in-Capricorn decides what it wants and proceeds to achieve it with great determination and careful planning. A tendency toward a pessimistic viewpoint is not uncommon with this placement. In Capricorn, any “trickster” tendencies are likely to be muted by Saturn’s uncompromising frown. It’s unlikely that Mercury enjoys this type of “adult supervision.”

Turning to the Tarot

The Golden Dawn links The Magician card with Mercury and The Devil with Capricorn. I am using the Celestial Tarot by Kay Steventon and Brian Clark (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.), but also providing images from the Rider (Rider-Waite-Smith or RWS) Tarot conceived by A.E. Waite (U.S. Games, Inc.) to show a more traditional depiction of these two cards.

In his book The Tarot (Macoy Publishing Company), Paul Foster Case writes of the Devil: “Capricorn, the Goat, is a cardinal, earthy sign, governing the knees, to which we are brought in prayer by our sense of bondage and personal insufficiency. The natives of Capricorn are said to be quiet, studious, and somewhat inclined to materialism.” Of the Magician/Mercury connection, Case writes, “The Mercury vibration represents intellect.”


Looking at the CELESTIAL TAROT cards, I get the distinct impression that these two characters are not friends. On Key 15, the horned goat-god Pan looks at us, not at the other card. On Key 1, the young god Mercury appears to gaze at Pan with disapproval or suspicion. Pan perches on a mound painted in the colors of Earth – brown, green, tan. Mercury appears to be standing in the sky, with cloud-like swirls of white around his feet and ankles. Or, as Clark puts it, “A creative process is underfoot…”


In the RIDER TAROT, I see quite a bit more that interests me. First of all, the two main figures on these cards assume very similar, if not identical, poses. Both face forward, raising their right arm, with their left arm lowered toward the ground. However, even in their similarities there are radical differences of purpose.

The Devil’s right hand has all its fingers open. On the palm of this hand is an astrological symbol of the planet Saturn, ruler of Capricorn. His left hand holds a torch, which Case describes as “burning wastefully, and giving little light.” I have no idea if Waite intended it, but to me, the Devil’s right hand seems to be giving us a “STOP” or “HALT” gesture. Certainly that is in keeping with the idea of Capricorn/Saturn as restrictive, limiting influence. The expression on the Devil’s face is dour, even menacing.

In contrast, the Magician’s uplifted right hand suggests that he is drawing power from above. He points downward with his left hand, directing this power to a plane below. The energy here is free flowing, channeled by the Magician, whose facial expression is pleasant and benign. Another thing that Waite may or may not have intended is the link here with the two signs ruled by Mercury: Gemini (Air) and Virgo (Earth). The Magician’s right hand reaches into “Air” and his right points down toward “Earth.”

Astrologically, the placement of the planet Mercury in the sign Capricorn gives Capricorn (and therefore Saturn) strong influence over the behavior of Mercury in my birth chart. It’s not hard to get a mental image of a young, energetic, open-minded Mercury feeling oppressed by the stern management style of Capricorn/Saturn. After all, on the Rider card, the Devil has chained two people together by the neck to the half-cube on which he sits. Case writes that “a cube represents That which was, is, and shall be, a half-cube symbolizes half-knowledge of that reality. Half-knowledge perceives nothing but the visible, sensory side of existence.”

Imagine the frustration Mercury (planet of the mind) must feel, chafing under the talons of the Devil and his “half-knowledge.” I get the sense that if at all possible, the Devil will keep Mercury from knowing anything but the visible, sensory side of things. Fortunately, Mercury can choose not to limit his knowledge in that way. The two people chained on the Devil card could slip the chains off their necks and walk away. They choose not to, perhaps out of fear or perhaps out of laziness.

For me personally, the placement of Mercury in Capricorn suggests the possibility that I will tend to self-limit my mind, my words, my thoughts, and everything else that Mercury represents. This is not always a bad thing, but it could be. Fortunately, we are not controlled by our birth charts. Knowing that I have this planetary placement gives me the opportunity to challenge my perceptions and to be suspicious of any negative influence Capricorn/Saturn/The Devil may exert.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dragon Fest - Part 1

There are several awesome dragon-themed Tarot and Oracle decks out there. I have not created such a deck, but I have created dragon-themed jewelry and I wrote a children’s book featuring a dragon.

If you are interested in the jewelry, just go to my ETSY shop (Jewelry by Scotti) and type “dragon” in the search field.


If you are interested in my children’s book, click HERE. I'm the author. The artist is the fabulous Christina Wald.

copyright Christina Wald

Okay, cross-marketing done. It’s time to look at dragons and how they are portrayed in various decks. First, however, allow me to share some information from one of my favorite books, A Natural History of Dragons and Unicorns by Paul and Karin Johnsgard (St. Martin’s Press).

The Johnsgards tell us that the word “dragon” is derived from the Greek word drakon, which may have come from derkomai (to look terrible or to gleam). According to the Johnsgards, there are three major types of dragons: lake dragons, flying dragons, and flightless dragons. These can be further divided into three types: The European Fire-Breathing Dragon, The Oriental Mist-Breathing Dragon, and The American Flightless Dragon.

Dragons can be found in mythology and lore from many parts of the world. The Scandinavians had their Krakens (actually giant squid). The Greeks had Typhon, who was so large that his head reached the stars. Another Greek dragon, Ladon, guarded the goddess Hera’s tree of golden apples. Others include Apep, the serpent-dragon of Egypt; Chiao, a marsh-dwelling Chinese dragon; Fafnir, a Norse dragon slain by Sigurd; Li, a hornless Chinese dragon; Makara, an Indian water dragon; and of course, Smaug, the dragon in the Tolkien sagas.

Then there's this guy:

komodo dragon / photo by Zanna Starr

Symbolically, dragons are known to represent benevolent energy in the Far East and malevolent energy in the West. In Asia (particularly in China) dragons represent supernatural power and the rhythms of the natural elements. Christianity was responsible in large part for the evolution of the dragon into a symbol of moral evils, disorder, and disbelief. (Dictionary of Symbols by Jack Tresidder / Chronicle Books)

My first dragon deck was the Dragon Tarot, created and illustrated by Peter Pracownik under the direction of Terry Donaldson (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.) The book that accompanies this deck states that the origin of the word dragon is from the Greek drakoni, which means “the seeing one.” Like the Chinese, the deck’s creator views the dragon as the ultimate symbol of knowledge and power. We are encouraged to look at the dragon “as a challenge for us to discover our own boundaries, and think about going beyond them.” ]


The dragons in this deck are flying dragons, somewhat similar to each other in appearance. The cards are colored in keeping with elemental associations for the suits.


As you can see, astrological associations are incorporated into the Major Arcana cards in this deck, while the Minors incorporate the symbols for Earth, Fire, Air, and Water, as appropriate for the suit.


For the next entry in my Dragon Series, I will offer a bit more about dragons in general and a look at a different dragon-themed deck.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Listen to the Animals: Sow

For this Tarot Notes feature, I pull one card from an animal-themed deck to represent an important message from that animal.

If you are interested in finding out who your Animal Guides are, you can get an Animal Guides Reading through my _Etsy shop_ or my _Web Site_.

Today I am using The Druid Animal Oracle by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington (Simon & Schuster).

My card is the SOW.
The Druid Animal Oracle
In this oracle deck, the Sow (Gaelic name muc, pronounced mooc) is seen as having the gifts or abilities of fertility and creativity. She is linked with the element Earth, and she represents generosity, nourishment, and discovery.

In his book Dictionary of Symbols (Chronicle Books), Jack Tressider tells us that pigs were venerated in earlier cultures (such as in the Celtic world depicted in the Druid Animal Oracle). However, Greek mythology along with Jewish and Islamic dietary taboos turned pigs into symbols of gluttony, lust, and sloth. In Buddhist tradition, the pig symbolizes ignorance.

The Carr-Gomms acknowledge these negative interpretations in their discussion of the reversed Sow card. They quote a Gaelic saying: “As a golden jewel in a pig’s snout, is a fair woman without sufficiency of understanding.” In other words, “without wisdom even beauty can be unattractive.”

One of my favorite tales from Welsh mythology is the story of Ceridwen, the goddess of pigs and barley, who sometimes manifested as a pig. According to legend, she was responsible for the initiation and transformation of Gwion Bach into the magical bard Taliesin. Ceridwen’s neophytes were addressed as piglets and her worshippers as swine.

With the Sow card, we are encouraged to open ourselves to nature’s abundance and then share that abundance with others, giving freely even as we receive nourishment and nurture ourselves.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of a sow named Betty Sue who lives on a goat farm not far from me. She is a Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pig.

Betty Sue


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Three's Company: Sun, Moon, Ascendant

I just finished reading a Final Exam paper by one of my students in Astrology 101 (a course I teach at the Magical Circle School). The exam asks students to discuss how the “Big Three” – their Sun, Moon, and Rising signs -- interact with each other, how they support or conflict with each other, and how those interactions are expressed in their personality.

The student did a beautiful job with her Libra Sun, Libra Moon, and Aries ascendant. I thought it would be fun to offer my thoughts on my own Sun, Moon, and Rising signs from a Tarot perspective.

I am using the Celestial Tarot by Kay Steventon and Brian Clark (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

Celestial Tarot (U.S. Games)
My Sun sign is Sagittarius: Temperance (The Spirit of Sagittarius)

In the Little White Book (LWB) for this deck, Temperance is subtitled “The Spirit of Sagittarius”. The card depicts Artemis, the Greek goddess of the wilderness, the hunt and wild animals, and fertility. On the surface it may be difficult to relate this image of Temperance to the traditional “woman pouring liquid from one cup into another” (shown faintly in the upper right background on this card). However, the LWB makes the following observation: “Underlying this archetype is the struggle between the instinctual and the pursuit of higher knowledge and ethics. Similarly the card Temperance implies moderation and balance, finding the middle path, and discerning between right and wrong.” Temperance, reflection, and balance are needed if we are to move forward on the path to spiritual awakening and learning.

Sagittarius is one of several signs termed “dual signs” or “double-bodied” signs in astrology. The reason is that the traditional representative of Sagittarius is a centaur – half human, half animal. This further supports the idea of “the struggle between the instinctual and the pursuit of higher knowledge and ethics” mentioned in the deck’s LWB. The Romans associated the constellation Sagittarius with Chiron, a wise and gentle Centaur. Like Chiron, the spirit of Sagittarius not only seeks wisdom but also becomes a teacher, mentor, healer, and guide.

In the larger book accompanying this deck, Brian Clark writes that the spirit of Sagittarius is “to reason and judge clearly, not from a self-interested perspective, but from a holistic point of view.” He adds that Sagittarius encourages us “to differentiate the barbaric from the refined, the wild from the moderate, and to choose the path aligned with our highest ideals.”

The placement of the Sun in a birth chart represents the core Self or true Self, our identity and ego. I like this depiction of Sagittarius for the most part, although I am repulsed by the idea of hunting and killing animals, so the Artemis-as-hunter connection doesn’t resonate with me. However, the desire to find a balance in all things is very strong. My level of success has fluctuated, but the main thing I notice is that I am aggravated by people who take an extreme view of anything, a black-and-white or all-or-nothing approach. I seek the center, and I want and expect people to be reasonable. Needless to say, I am often disappointed.


Celestial Tarot (U.S. Games)
My Moon sign is Taurus: The Hierophant (The Power of Taurus)

On this card we see the god Zeus in the guise of a white bull. Sitting on the bull is Europa, a Phoenician princess abducted to Crete by Zeus. Behind Europa and the bull we see the Hierophant, “the priest who initiated thousands of pilgrims into the Eleusinian Mysteries” (LWB). Here we have the force and power of our passions (the bull), innocence and childhood beliefs (Europa), and the Hierophant who “initiates her into the quest for self-knowledge, the aspect of the self that beckons us to journey beyond our comfort zone.” (Clark) As presented in this deck, the Hierophant encourages us to direct and control our inner strengths and resources, our power and our passion, and to remain grounded in the world even as we seek to expand our self-knowledge and understanding. Indeed Taurus energy is viewed as down-to-earth, practical,

It is perhaps revealing that The Hierophant is one of my least favorite cards in the Tarot. I typically view the card as representing the rules and restrictions of organized religion and/or society’s established or approved way of doing things – and I have “issues” with all of that. Ironically, the reason for my resistance (or part of the reason) may lie in the fact that this energy has a strong presence in my birth chart. So I am resisting something within myself that I can’t or don’t want to come to terms with. In astrology, the placement of the Moon represents our interior life, our emotional instincts and habits. It is therefore possible that the Hierophant aspect of my nature is beneath the surface, deep in my subconscious, influencing my behavior and decisions more than I would like it to at a conscious level.


Celestial Tarot (U.S. Games
My Rising sign is Virgo: The Hermit (Virgo, the Wise Virgin)

Brian Clark tells us that many prominent goddesses and heroines have been identified with the constellation Virgo, which happens to be the largest zodiacal constellation. For this card the creators of this deck chose Hestia, Greek goddess of the hearth and home. Clark points out that although never associated with Virgo in ancient sources, Hestia embodies many of its attributes: “stillness, discretion, containment, veiled, virginal, centered and sacred.” She is viewed as the guardian of the astrological sixth house, the house ruled by the sign Virgo on the zodiac wheel.

On the card we see Hestia in the foreground, with the traditional tarot image of the Hermit holding the lamp in the background. In one hand Hestia carries sheaves of wheat, a symbol of cultivation. With the other hand she disseminates seeds for the new cycle. This is intended to reinforce our connection with “the cyclical nature of the goddess” and the idea that Virgo’s “wisdom of cycles needs to become consciousness.” (Clark) In the season of harvest, we are called to “withdraw into the internal realm to prepare and reflect.”

In astrology, the ascendant sign or “rising sign” represents the part of us that others see – the first impression we make, the “face” or “mask” we reveal. Some astrologers call it “the front door of the Self.” The face I present to others, at least initially, could well be described as silent or still, reserved and introspective – traits associated with The Hermit and Virgo.

I have always felt a push-pull kind of thing going on between my Sun (an active Fire sign) and my Moon and Rising signs (passive Earth). However, I sense a much more unified, compatible energy when I look at Temperance, The Hierophant, and The Hermit together. I really like that image!


So there we have it. If you have managed to stay with me through this self-centered analysis, perhaps you have seen or learned something useful to your own life journey. Or perhaps you are now inspired to explore your “Big Three” astrological signs as they relate to the Tarot.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Journey Through My Decks: 6 of Pentacles

With the Winter Olympics being hosted in Russia, I decided to take Journey Through My Decks to Russia by way of the Fantastical Creatures Tarot by Lisa Hunt and D.J. Conway (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

Abundance

The домово́й -- domovoy (or domovoi) -- was a house spirit in Slavic folklore. The word dom means "home" or "house" in Russian. These creatures were said to inhabit the hearth and home, usually living under the doorstep or stove, or in the basement.

A domovoy was inherently neither bad nor good. He took his cue from the residents of the house and their behavior. If they deserved his protection, he gave it willingly. Although rarely seen or heard, the domovoy made his presence known in various ways and was said to be moody and mischievous. He could take on the appearance of the homeowner or one of the homeowner's ancestors or a variety of other creatures. As one can imagine, the domovoy was treated with great respect by the residents of the home in which he lived. When families moved, they invited the domovoy to move with them.

On the Six of Pentacles in the Fantastical Creatures Tarot, we see a domovoy creating magickal pentagrams to protect his human family and bring them good things. The traditional association of the suit of Pentacles with domestic, everyday matters in the material world is maintained here.

Book T* calls the Six of Pentacles “The Lord of Material Success” and relates it astrologically to the Moon in Taurus.

DMs provided by Conway: "Abundance and prosperity will enable you to help someone else in need. You will be able to repay debts."

***

* Book T The Tarot (an initiatory manual for the Order of the Golden Dawn) Comprising Manuscripts N, O, P, Q, R, and an Unlettered Theoricus Adeptus Minor Instruction, A Description of the Cards of the Tarot with their Attributions; Including a Method of Divination by Their Use.

About the deck: In the Introduction to the LWB for this deck, we are told that the mythical beings depicted in the deck seem to "fit into a niche between humans and gods, a kind of middleman of the astral realms." These mythical creatures can be "good and helpful, neutral, or evil and harmful." Conway encourages us to "use the energy of Fantastical Creatures for magick, meditation, and divination. . . as a tool to improve yourself and your life."



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Roles We Play

Throughout our lives we play many roles – within our family, in society, in relationships, at work, and so forth. Some of these roles we are well aware of (such as father, mother, daughter, brother) and others we are not conscious of or willing to acknowledge (such as nice person, victim, righteous one, angry person, drama queen, clown, ostrich). It can be interesting to explore the roles we play and how we feel about those roles.

With this in mind, I developed a couple of Tarot spreads to serve that purpose. They are simple spreads, and I imagine that somebody else, somewhere, has probably come up with similar ones. Nevertheless, these are my own creations, to the best of my knowledge.

I am using the Dreaming Way Tarot by Rome Choi (U.S. Games Systems) to demonstrate these two spreads.

Reading #1

(1)..................................(2)......................................(3)

(1) a role I sometimes play (a mask I wear)
TEN OF WANDS: “the burdened one”
There are times when I feel overwhelmed by tasks, responsibilities, projects, etc. This happened more often when I worked outside my home. It seemed like one thing after another would happen until I felt I could just barely keep it all together, at which point something more would happen to “break the camel’s back.” These days, if I feel over-burdened, it is because I myself have taken on too much at one time either because I feel no one else will do it if I don’t or because it is somehow my responsibility or the “right thing to do.” Eventually, of course, this leads to resentment and irritation at other people, either because they are not helping or because they seem oblivious to the fact that I’m “doing it all” while they do nothing.

(2) how I feel about that role (mask)
THE SUN: successful
Okay, I admit it! I’m good at playing “the burdened one.” It gives me a certain satisfaction and actually bolsters my ego (“I can do it all. I will do it all.”) In astrology, the Sun represents our identity, and I am very good about identifying with this particular role, and I’m likely to feel that I am “the burdened one” rather than realizing that I am playing the role of “the burdened one.”

(3) best course of action
THREE OF WANDS: Look ahead. Involve other people.
The person on this card looks outward not inward, focusing on what lies ahead. The number Three commonly suggests the involvement of more than one person. Unlike the person on the 10 of Wands, who holds nine Wands and appears to be about to pick up a tenth, the person on the 3 of Wands holds onto only one Wand and does not pick it up or carry it. The other two Wands stand on their own. If I want to move away from playing “the burdened one,” I need to choose which Wand(s) to pick up and carry and which one(s) to set aside. On the other hand, if I truly enjoy playing “the burdened one,” I can just keep right on doing it, with the understanding that it is my choice.

Reading #2

(1)..........................................(2)

(1) a role I would rather not play
ACE OF WANDS: “the person in charge”
I really don’t like to be the person in charge of anything because that usually means that other people are involved, and I dislike dealing with group dynamics and personalities. I have no interest in motivating people or getting them to do things. I’m fine if it’s just me and maybe one other person. But the thought of leading a group activity or project gives me a headache. (And yes, this is based on experience.)

(2) what will help me avoid playing that role
KNIGHT OF CUPS: using good judgment and refraining from taking a leadership role simply because I can or feel I “should” (guilt trip)
In the past, I have had a tendency to respond to the need for “someone to take charge” like a knight on a white horse riding to the rescue. I see the need and I know I am capable and I really “ought” to do it… and before I can think it through, I raise my hand and say, “Oh, I’ll do it!” And I end up hating every minute of the job. I can avoid being put in that position by “reigning myself in” and waiting to see what more appropriate role I can play.

(3)..........................................(4)

(3) a role I would like to play
QUEEN OF CUPS: “the compassionate, intuitive caregiver”
I actually do play this role on occasion, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I might feel compassion and my heart might go out to someone in a situation, but I tend to hold back those emotions and not reveal them. I may or may not express those feelings or act on them. In my heart and mind, I think I want to be this outwardly caring, nurturing, emotionally invested person – but when the opportunity arises to do that, I often withdraw instead. This suggests that perhaps this is a role that I cannot comfortably play, that it goes against who I really am, whether I like it or not.

(4) what will help me play that role
TWO OF CUPS: connecting and communicating with others at an emotional level
This really is the secret, isn’t it? If I cannot or will not connect and communicate with others at an emotional level, I am probably not going to feel comfortable playing the Queen of Cups role. It will feel artificial or forced. Forming emotional bonds with people is not one of my strengths. I shy away from that. Ultimately I may have to give up the idea of playing a Queen of Cups role, quit trying to force a square peg (myself) into a round hole (Queen of Cups role).

This has been an interesting and useful exercise for me. Feel free to give it a try yourself and let me know what you find out!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Amethyst for February

I have not taken the time before now to explore a deck I acquired quite some time ago: The Tarot of Gemstones and Crystals, with instructions and interpretation by Helmut G. Hoffman (AGMüller Urania). I purchased this deck primarily to have a collection of images of gemstones and their meanings so that I could use that information in describing my handmade jewelry (_Jewelry by Scotti_).

However, this is a Tarot deck, and from time to time I will share it here on Tarot Notes.

Since this is the beginning of February, I am focusing on the birth stone associated with this month: amethyst. In The Tarot of Gemstones and Crystals, amethyst appears on the Death card (XIII).


Helmut G. Hofmann makes the following comments in the Little White Book that accompanies this deck: “This violet stone promotes humility and philanthropy. It brings light into problems and so helps us in the transformation from the mental to the spiritual level. It both soothes hardened souls and supports people with gentle natures.”

The link with transformation certainly applies to the Death card, which often speaks of beginnings, endings, letting go, and change.

February is the third month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the third month of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. On the Roman calendar, February 2 is halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. In many traditions, February 2 is considered the beginning of spring. This concept also ties in nicely with the meaning of Death as transformation – the end of one situation and a new beginning.

Here is a pair of earrings I made using glass charm beads swirled with lavender and deep purple and Swarovsky light amethyst bicone crystals (with amethyst being a reference to the color rather than the gemstone):